PDF Archive

Easily share your PDF documents with your contacts, on the Web and Social Networks.

Share a file Manage my documents Convert Recover PDF Search Help Contact



On the Cultural Revolution .pdf


Original filename: On the Cultural Revolution.pdf
Title: On the Cultural Revolution
Author: Anonymous tr. Jason E. Smith [Attributed to Louis Althusser]

This PDF 1.4 document has been generated by Appligent APSetDocInfo 2.2.2 / SPDF, and has been sent on pdf-archive.com on 21/04/2018 at 21:54, from IP address 187.10.x.x. The current document download page has been viewed 341 times.
File size: 306 KB (20 pages).
Privacy: public file




Download original PDF file









Document preview


Décalages
Volume 1 | Issue 1

Article 9

2-16-2010

On the Cultural Revolution
Anonymous tr. Jason E. Smith [Attributed to Louis Althusser]

Recommended Citation
[Attributed to Louis Althusser], Anonymous tr. Jason E. Smith (2010) "On the Cultural Revolution," Décalages: Vol. 1: Iss. 1, Article
9.
Available at: http://scholar.oxy.edu/decalages/vol1/iss1/9

This Archive is brought to you for free and open access by Occidental College Scholar. It has been accepted for inclusion in Décalages by an authorized
administrator of Occidental College Scholar. For more information, please contact cdlr@oxy.edu.

[Attributed to Louis Althusser]: On the Cultural Revolution

On the Cultural Revolution
Anonymous [attributed to Louis Althusser]
[The text that follows is the translation of an article that was
published unsigned in the November-December 1966 issue
of the Cahiers marxistes-léninistes. The journal was founded
in the latter part of 1964 by students in the École Normale
Supérieure section of the Communist Students Union
(UEC), its first issue appearing in December 1964. In
December 1966, the journal became the “theoretical and
political organ” of the Communist (Marxist-Leninist)
Youth Union, a group that formed after a split within the
UEC. The journal will, with the November-December 1966
issue, assume an increasingly antagonist position against the
“revisionism” of the French Communist Party. The first two
issues of the journal published after the split will, in turn, be
devoted to “The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.” In
the first of these two issues, the following text appears. It has
been subsequently attributed to Louis Althusser.
— Jason E. Smith]

Whatever position he or she takes on the Chinese Cultural
Revolution, no communist is permitted to simply and automatically “deal
with” this matter, with no other form of examination, as a mere fact among
others, as one argument among others.
The C.R. is not, first of all, an argument: it is first and foremost an
historical fact. It is not one fact among others. It is an unprecedented fact.
It is not an historical fact reducible to its circumstances, it is not a
decision taken “in light of” the Chinese Communist Party’s struggle against
“modern revisionism” or in response to the political and military
encirclement of China. It is an historical fact of great importance and long
duration. It is a part of the development of the Chinese Revolution. It
represents one of its phases, one of its mutations. It plunges roots into its
past, and readies its future. As such, it belongs to the International
Communist Movement in the same way the Chinese Revolution does.
It is therefore an historical fact that must be examined for itself, in its
independence and depth, without pragmatically reducing it to this or that
aspect of the current conjuncture.
Décalages
Volume I: Issue 0

Produced by The Berkeley Electronic Press, 2010

1

Décalages, Vol. 1 [2010], Iss. 1, Art. 9
On the Cultural Revolution

2

It is, moreover, an exceptional historical fact. On the one hand, it has
no historical precedent and, on the other hand, it presents an intense
theoretical interest.
Marx, Engels and Lenin always proclaimed it was absolutely
necessary to give the socialist infrastructure, established by a political
revolution, a corresponding—that is, socialist—ideological superstructure.
For this to occur, an ideological revolution is necessary, a revolution in the
ideology of the masses. This thesis expresses a fundamental principle of
Marxist theory.
Lenin was acutely aware of this necessity, and the Bolshevik party
made great efforts in this direction. But circumstances did not allow the
U.S.S.R. to put a mass ideological revolution on the agenda.
The C.C.P. is the first party to take itself and the masses down this
road through the application of new means, the first to put this mass
ideological revolution—designated by the expression “C.R.”—on the
agenda.
This convergence of a Marxist theoretical thesis that up to this point
remained in a theoretical state with a new historical fact which is this
thesis’s realization should obviously leave no communist indifferent. This
rapprochement cannot but arouse intense interest, both political and
theoretical.
Of course, the novelty, originality, and unexpected forms the event
has taken are necessarily surprising and disconcerting, raising all sorts of
questions. The contrary would be astonishing.
Given these conditions, it is impermissible to come to take a position
without a serious examination beforehand. A communist cannot, from the
distance where we stand, make pronouncements about the C.R, and
therefore judge it, without having analyzed, at least in principle, the political
and theoretical credentials of the C.R. based on the original documents he or
she has available and in light of Marxist principles.
This means:
1. we must first of all analyze the C.R. as a political fact, which
requires considering, together, the following:
— the political conjuncture in which it intervenes,
— the political objectives it establishes,
— the methods and means it acquires and applies.

http://scholar.oxy.edu/decalages/vol1/iss1/9

2

[Attributed to Louis Althusser]: On the Cultural Revolution
Anonymous (attributed to Louis Althusser)

3

2. we must then examine this political fact in the light of Marxist
theoretical principles (historical materialism, dialectical
materialism), asking ourselves whether this political fact is, or is
not, in conformity with these theoretical principles.
Without this twofold analysis, at once political and theoretical — an
analysis we can only briefly schematize here — it is simply not possible for a
French communist to judge the C.R.

I. Political Analysis of the Cultural Revolution
a. Conjuncture of the Cultural Revolution
The C.C.P. has, in its official declarations, underlined the
fundamental political reason for the C.R. (cf. the “16 Points, ” summarized
by the C.C., the editorials of the Renmin Ribao).
In socialist countries, after the more or less complete
socialist transformation of the property of the means of
production, there is still this question that remains: what
road is to be taken? Is it necessary to go all the way to
the end of the socialist revolution and gradually pass over
into communism? Or, to the contrary, stop halfway and
go backwards toward capitalism? This question is being
posed to us in a particular acute manner. (Editorial of the
Renmin Ribao, August 15, 1966).
The C.R. is thus unequivocally presented as a political answer to an
extremely precise political question. This question is declared “acute” and
“crucial.”
This crucial question is a factual question that is posed to the C.C.P.
in a defined political conjuncture.
Which conjuncture?
In its essence, this conjuncture is not, as some commentators believe, a
“global” conjuncture, namely the serious conflict provoked by the American
aggression against the Liberation Movement of South Vietnam, against the
socialist State of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, and by the threats
leveled at China. The conjuncture that explains the C.R. is in its essence
internal to socialism.
Décalages
Volume I: Issue 0

Produced by The Berkeley Electronic Press, 2010

3

Décalages, Vol. 1 [2010], Iss. 1, Art. 9
On the Cultural Revolution

4

But this conjuncture is also not, in its essence, constituted by the
“conflict” between the C.C.P. and the C.P.S.U. This “conflict” is, as far as
the C.R. is concerned, relatively marginal. The C.R. is, above all, not a
“response” to the “conflict,” an argument made by the C.C.P. against the
C.P.S.U. The C.R. responds to another fundamental question, of which this
conflict is only one aspect or effect.
The conjuncture of the C.R. is constituted by the Chinese socialist
Revolution’s current problems of development. The C.C.P. speaks of China
when it says: “the question is being posed to us in a particularly acute
manner.” In fact, the C.C.P. does not pose this question to other socialist
countries, nor does it suggest they undertake their own C.R. But it is also
quite clear that the conjuncture of the C.R. is not restricted to the Chinese
Revolution’s problems of development alone. Through the Chinese
conjuncture, it is the conjuncture of all socialist countries that is at stake.
The Chinese conjuncture appears, in fact, as a particular case of the
conjuncture of socialist countries in general.
To understand the fundamental, crucial problem that forms the basis
of the political conjuncture of the C.R., we have to search for it where this
problem gets posed. We must not be mistaken about the conjuncture. We must
not search for this problem either in the “global” conjuncture (imperialist
aggression) or in the conjuncture of the “C.C.P./C.P.S.U. conflict.” We
must search for it in the conjuncture of the Chinese socialist revolution and,
more generally, within the internal conjuncture of the socialist countries.
Let’s recall what a socialist country is.
It’s a country where a political socialist revolution has taken place
(seizing power in historically different conditions, but leading to the
dictatorship of the proletariat), then an economic revolution (socialization of
the means of production, establishment of socialist relations of production).
A socialist country thus constituted “builds socialism” under the dictatorship
of the proletariat and, when the moment comes, prepares for the transition
to communism. It is a long, drawn-out process.
Now, in the eyes of the C.C.P., a critical examination of the “positive
and negative experiences” of socialist revolutions—their victories and
failures, their difficulties, their progress, their degree of advancement (in
the U.S.S.R., in the socialist countries of Central Europe, in Yugoslavia, in
China, in North Korea, in North Vietnam, in Cuba)—shows that every
socialist country has found itself, or finds itself, or will find itself, even once

http://scholar.oxy.edu/decalages/vol1/iss1/9

4

[Attributed to Louis Althusser]: On the Cultural Revolution
Anonymous (attributed to Louis Althusser)

5

it has “more or less” completed the socialization of the means of production,
faced with a crucial problem: that of the two “roads.”
The problem is the following. We are going to state it in the form of
questions.
In the different phases of revolutionary transitions that make a social
formation of capitalism pass over to socialism then to communism, does
there not exist, in each of these phases, an objective risk of “regression”?
Isn’t this risk the result of the politics pursued by the revolutionary party, its
correctness or falseness; not only its general line, but also the specific ways
it is applied? In the way the hierarchy and articulation of objectives is
determined and in the objective mechanisms (economic, political, ideological)
put into place by this politics? Is there not a logic and a necessity to these
mechanisms such that they can cause the socialist country to “regress”
“toward capitalism”? Moreover, isn’t this risk exacerbated by the existence
of imperialism, by its means (economic, political, military, ideological), by
the support it can draw on from certain elements within a socialist country,
by occupying some of this country’s voids (cf. ideology), by using its
mechanisms to neutralize and utilize it politically, then dominate it
economically?
Considering this general risk, and using the terms currently deployed
by the Chinese Communist Party, is the future of socialism in a country
completely, that is to say, definitively, irreversibly, 100 percent assured
based on the mere fact that this country has achieved a twofold revolution,
both political and economic? Can it not regress toward capitalism?
Don’t we already have an example of such a regression: Yugoslavia?
Is it not possible, then, that a socialist country might conserve, even
for a long time, the outward form or forms (economic, political) of
socialism, all the while giving them a completely different economic,
political and ideological content (mechanism of restoration of capitalism),
all the while letting itself be progressively neutralized and then used
politically and dominated economically by imperialism?
This problem is of a piece with the C.C.P. thesis on the risk that a
socialist country might “regress” toward capitalism. It is on the basis of this
general thesis that it is possible to say that socialist countries constantly find
themselves confronted with an alternative between “two roads.” This
alternative can, in certain circumstances, become particularly critical, even
Décalages
Volume I: Issue 0

Produced by The Berkeley Electronic Press, 2010

5

Décalages, Vol. 1 [2010], Iss. 1, Art. 9
On the Cultural Revolution

6

today. Two roads, then, open up before the socialist countries, in view of the
results obtained in their revolution:
— the revolutionary road, which leads beyond the obtained results,
toward the consolidation and development of socialism, then toward the
passage to communism;
— the regressive road, which falls back on this side of the obtained
results, toward the neutralization then political utilization then economic
domination and “digestion” of a socialist country by imperialism: the road of
“regression back toward capitalism.”
The alternative between two roads, then, is this: either “stop halfway,” which really means regressing, or do not “stop half-way,” that is,
keep moving forward.
In the official Chinese texts, the first road is characterized, in
shorthand, as the “capitalist” road (it is a question of “leaders who take the
capitalist road”), and the second road is characterized, again in shorthand,
as the “revolutionary road.”
Such is the dominant political problem posed by the political
conjuncture of the C.R.
b) Political objectives of the Cultural Revolution
For China, the C.R. offers an answer to this question, a solution to
this problem. For China: but it is clear that this solution as well as this
problem infinitely surpass the Chinese conjuncture both in their import and
their effects.
The C.C.P. says: we are at a crossroads. We must choose: either we
stop half-way, in which case we in fact, even if we claim the contrary, take
the road of regression, the “capitalist road,” or we decide to move forward,
we take the necessary steps, and then we head down the “revolutionary
road.”
It is precisely at this point in the Chinese conjuncture that the C.R.
intervenes.
The C.C.P. declares that in order to reinforce and develop socialism
in China, in order to assure its future and protect it in a lasting way from
every risk of regression, it must add a third revolution to the prior political
and economic revolutions: a mass ideological revolution.
The C.C.P. calls this mass ideological Revolution the proletarian
Cultural Revolution.

http://scholar.oxy.edu/decalages/vol1/iss1/9

6

[Attributed to Louis Althusser]: On the Cultural Revolution
Anonymous (attributed to Louis Althusser)

7

Its ultimate aim is to transform the ideology of the masses, to replace
the feudal, bourgeois and petit-bourgeois ideology that still permeates the
masses of Chinese society with a new ideology of the masses, proletarian
and socialist — and in this way to give the socialist economic infrastructure
and political superstructure a corresponding ideological superstructure.
This ultimate aim defines the distant objective of the C.R. The C.R.
can only be a long, drawn-out process.
However, this ultimate aim from this day forward hinges on the
essential, dominant problem of the conjuncture: the problem of the
crossroads, the problem of the two roads.
The articulation of this aim stands out quite clearly in all of the
official Chinese texts establishing the hierarchy of current objectives: “The
movement underway takes aim primarily at those who, in the Party, hold
leadership positions, and have taken the capitalist road.” It is therefore
within the Party, on which everything depends, it is with the Party itself
that the C.R. should begin, while at the same time unfolding in all other
domains. The C.R. poses, in an immediate and direct way, a question to the
leaders, the essential question, the question as to which road they are taking,
the road they intend to take: “capitalist road” or “revolutionary road.”
This essential objective unequivocally indicates the central problem to
which the C.R. responds.
Of course, the C.R. has, from this point on, other objectives. Just as
ideology is present in all practices of a given society, the C.R. bears just as
much on the forms of ideology that intervene in economic practices,
political practices, pedagogical practices, etc.
In all of these spheres, the C.R. defines near-term objectives, posed
with a view to its distant aims. They are all articulated in the final instance
in view of solving the essential problem: the problem of the two roads.
c) Means and methods of the Cultural Revolution
As for the means and methods of the C.R., they rest on the principle
that the C.R. should be a revolution of the masses that transforms the
ideology of the masses and is made by the masses themselves.
It is not simply a question of transforming the ideology or reforming
the understanding of some intellectuals or a few leaders. It is not even a
question of transforming the ideology of the communist Party alone,
Décalages
Volume I: Issue 0

Produced by The Berkeley Electronic Press, 2010

7

Décalages, Vol. 1 [2010], Iss. 1, Art. 9
On the Cultural Revolution

8

supposing such a thing were necessary. It is a matter of transforming the
ideas, the ways of thinking, the ways of acting, the customs [moeurs] of the
masses of the entire country, several hundred million men, peasants, workers
and intellectuals.
Now, such a transformation of the ideology of the masses can only be
the work of the masses themselves, acting in and through organizations that are
mass organizations.
The politics of the C.C.P. consists, then, in making the widest
possible appeal and having the greatest confidence in the masses, and in
inviting all political leaders to follow, with no hesitation and even with a
certain audacity, this “mass line.” It is necessary to let the masses speak, and
have confidence in the initiatives of the masses. Errors, inevitable in every
movement, will happen: they will be corrected within the movement, the
masses will educate themselves in and by acting. But we must avoid at all
costs holding back or restraining this movement in advance, under the
pretext that errors or excesses are “possible”: this would break the
movement. It is also necessary to foresee that there will be resistances,
sometimes considerable, to the mass movement: they are normal, since the
C.R. is a form of the class struggle. These resistances will come from
representatives of the formerly dominant classes and might also come, in
certain cases, from poorly-led or poorly-handled masses, and might even
come from certain leaders of the Party. It will be necessary to treat all of
these cases differentially, distinguishing enemies from friends and, among
adversaries, distinguishing among the hostile, irreducible elements, the
leaders who are stuck in their ways or confused, those who are hesitant and
those who are spineless. In no case, even against the bourgeois class enemy
(crimes being punished by law), should one come to “blows” and have
recourse to violence, but always to reasoning and persuasion.
The masses can only act in mass organizations. The C.R.’s most
original and innovative means are found in the emergence of organizations
specific to the C.R., organizations distinct from other organizations of the
class struggle (union and party). The organizations specific to the C.R. are
organizations of ideological class struggle.
These organizations seem to have been originally brought about as a
result of initiatives from the base (creation of circles, study groups, popular
committees). Just has Lenin did the Soviets, the C.C.P. recognized their
importance, supported them, and extended their example to the entire C.R.,
among workers, peasants, intellectuals and the youth.

http://scholar.oxy.edu/decalages/vol1/iss1/9

8


Related documents


on the cultural revolution
cultural revolution and industrial reorganization in china
marx2mao
for marx
the cultural revolution
another view of stalin1


Related keywords